Hamas has claimed to have repelled a brief Israeli ground incursion, in what marks the first such reported direct ground fight between two sides in Gaza. The Al-Qassam Brigades announced its fighters destroyed two Israeli military bulldozers and a tank as part of an ambush amid the IDF’s conducting ‘limited’ incursions into the strip.
“The soldiers of the Zionist force that fell into the Khan Younis ambush left their vehicles and fled east of the fence on foot,” the Hamas wing said on social media. The IDF as expected did not confirm the claims, saying only that “shots were fired at IDF soldiers operating west of the Gaza Strip security fence, in the area of Kissufim.” Instead, the IDF said only that “An IDF tank struck the terrorist cell who fired at the soldiers” – but did confirm its forces were operating inside Gaza at the time of the incident.
The IDF appears to have begun taking casualties, and the major ground offensive has yet to even begin. Importantly, an IDF statement cited in a fresh Times of Israel update appears to back Hamas’ account of repelling the IDF tank and bulldozers:
A soldier was killed and three others were hurt on Sunday after Hamas attacked troops carrying out an operation on the western side of the Gaza border fence, near the southern community of Kissufim.
The operation was part of the military’s searches for bodies of missing Israelis, and to clear the area for Israel’s upcoming ground offensive.
The Israel Defense Forces said an anti-tank guided missile was fired at an Israeli tank and engineering vehicle, and troops responded by shelling the terror cell. Terror group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Elsewhere the IDF announced it conducted a very rare airstrike in the West Bank. It said its jets hit a mosque allegedly used as a “Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist compound” in Jenin.
Meanwhile, Israel has issued a formal apology to Egypt for inadvertently hitting an Egyptian border outpost, which injured a number of Egyptian military border guards. Al Jazeera describes:
Shell fragments from an Israeli tank have hit the Egyptian border, injuring at least seven people including several Egyptian border guards, according to the militaries of both countries.
The incident occurred late Sunday, with the Israeli military confirming that it “accidentally” hit the Egyptian position near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces have struck the Rafah crossing area multiple times at this point, with Palestinian officials alleging that it is an intention al act.
🚨JUST IN – Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman:
– If the IDF carries out its threat to bomb Al-Quds Hospital, a major massacre will occur.
– The international community should not be silent in the face of Israel’s threats to bomb our hospitals.
– The remaining amount of fuel… pic.twitter.com/3t6CHSNR80
— Mario Nawfal (@MarioNawfal) October 22, 2023
In Washington, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US is “concerned about potential escalation” in the Middle East, and confirmed that US assets were deployed to the region to ensure troop safety:
“We’re concerned about potential escalation. In fact, what we’re seeing is a — is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region, and because of that, we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in the right — in a good position, and they’re protected, and that we have the ability to respond,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
All eyes continue to be on Israel’s northern border, where the tit-for-tat strikes with Hezbollah continue ramping up.